Official data showed on Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s unemployment rate has climbed to 12.7 percent in the first quarter of 2017, with women constituting the majority of jobseekers.
According to the Saudi Press Agency, the latest statistics show that some 906,000 Saudis are seeking jobs, of which nearly 219,000 are men and 687,000 are women.
The rise in unemployment comes as the Saudi economy grapples with the fallout of low oil prices, according to data. It highlights the immense challenge Saudi Arabia faces in efforts to create jobs for its nationals.
Last year, when the unemployment rate was less than a full percentage below where it stands now, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced his Vision 2030 reform plan to diversify the country’s economy beyond oil.
The plan aims to cut the jobless rate to seven percent by 2030.
“The data shows the economy is not creating enough jobs for the new entrants into the labor market. Job creation is going to be the main challenge for the reform program,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank.
“The private sector is suffering from fiscal reforms and government spending is down. Despite the pressure on expatriates, we're not seeing enough job growth among nationals to make up for their departure from the market.”